One-legend wonders: 13-plus great Zelda items that only appeared once

One-legend wonders: 13-plus great Zelda items that only appeared once

Illustration by Nick Wanserski
Illustration by Nick Wanserski

So much of The Legend Of Zelda’s identity hangs on that “legend” conceit. It’s a tale that’s always being retold, often with the same characters, locations, and plot points. That’s also why Link’s ever-growing collection of weapons and gadgetry tends to stay so similar from game to game. But when you look past the utilitarian adventuring necessities—your bombs and bows and boomerangs—the series is full of tools that have only ever made their way into a single Zelda game. Some are powerful items with deep ties to the stories in which they appear, and others are idiosyncratic novelties that have no place outside the ruined temples in which they’ve been hidden away. Whatever their role, some of these one-legend wonders are among the most memorable tools Link has ever used.

1. Ball And Chain, Twilight Princess (2006)

As a swordsman, Link relies on precision and speed. He has to be able to read his opponents’ tells and move in quickly to strike while they’re recovering. That all changes when he’s using the Ball And Chain. This weapon, a modified flail, is a slow and lumbering beast of pure force. By swinging it over his head in a helicopter motion, Link can ward off nearby foes both on land and in the air. When thrown, the ball and chain is one of the most powerful weapons in the entire series, taking out stronger enemies in one or two clean hits, and plowing right through ice and rock walls to reveal hidden doors. All this power comes at a price, though, as the heavy hardware weighs Link down and causes him to move at a snail’s pace. It’s not an item for the quick and stealthy, but when you just need to make a lasting impression, nothing does it quite like this massive ball of rock-hard iron. [Derrick Sanskrit]

2. Magic Cape, A Link To The Past (1991)

Sauron’s one ring and Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak can go screw. A Link To The Past’s Magic Cape has them both beat. This jaunty red cover-all drains your magic quickly, but it also renders you both invisible and invincible. Nothing can touch you, making it perfect for bypassing deadly traps but a risky choice if you’re low on magic juice. The Magic Cape would be welcome if it showed back up in a Zelda all these years later—though the new games’ relative ease sort of negates its use—but it probably wouldn’t be as fun to find. The Magic Cape isn’t just some item waiting to be found in a dungeon. It’s a wholly optional treasure found by robbing a secret hallway concealed beneath a grave. That’s easily the coolest way to find a cape, magic or not. [Anthony John Agnello]

3. Great Fairy’s Sword, Majora’s Mask (2000)

There are a handful of special swords that have only ever appeared in one Zelda game, but as fun as it can be to swing something around that isn’t the Master Sword for a while, none of those weapons can compare to the majesty of the Great Fairy’s Sword. For one thing, Link needs two hands to carry it, which is a pretty badass move for a game where blocking things with a shield tends to be a common activity. Also, it’s stronger than the rinky-dink daggers Link is usually equipped with in Majora’s Mask, which makes killing skulltulas and wolfos into an absolute delight. The best part of the Great Fairy’s Sword, though, is its ridiculous color scheme. When have bright green, neon purple, and dark red ever looked bad together? All the time, obviously, except for this once. The Great Fairy’s Sword is a statement more than anything, and its message is clear: Run away, or this little kid is going to beat you to death. [Sam Barsanti]

4. Beetle, Skyward Sword (2011)

Unlike the rest of Link’s vast arsenal, the Beetle is less of an item than a chipper little companion. The last word in Hyrulian drone technology, this little bug-bot is unique in how much flexibility and freedom it offers. You can dispatch it around corners to scout for danger or send it up high enough to lend some necessary perspective on your position in a vast, unmapped desert. And it’s always ready to flit off and gather any errant rupees Link just can’t be bothered to Hookshot his way toward. The addition of an upgraded pair of mandibles even weaponizes this scouting and retrieval tool. Now able to carry items, the critter can gather a bomb up in its jaws and stealthily drop it on some unsuspecting Moblin. It’s a fussy and inefficient way to dispatch enemies compared to the timeless elegance of firing off a shot from your bow, but what it lacks in simplicity, it more than makes up for in the satisfaction of executing a well-coordinated bombing run. [Nick Wanserski]

5. Deku Leaf, The Wind Waker (2003)

In games like Zelda, most of the items you get can only be used for one thing. Something like the Hookshot can pull Link toward objects or pull objects toward Link, but those are essentially the same thing. Wind Waker’s Deku Leaf, on the other hand, brings an extraordinary level of usability to the series. It doesn’t just do one thing—it does two things. It’s basically a really big leaf, and Link can use it as a parachute to glide on the wind or slow down a descent, but he can also swing it like a giant fan to shoot gusts of air at enemies. That is some unprecedented versatility. [Sam Barsanti]

6. Spinner, Twilight Princess (2006)

It’s an admittedly goofy idea: Take Link in one of his most obviously adolescent incarnations, stick him on a big spinning skateboard, and let him rip like a giant, bow-wielding Beyblade. And yet, Twilight Princess’ Spinner works, at least for a while. If Zelda items are measured in how much fun they bring to fighting or moving around Hyrule (as opposed to just acting like elaborate, glorified keys), then the Spinner falls firmly in the middle of the scale. On the one hand, it largely serves to pass over sand or interact with specialized rails; on the other, the burst of speed it provides while doing so makes for a great (and literal) change of pace. That feeling of speed—and the way it contributes to the ricocheting, chaotic boss fight against Stallord—is the difference between happily finding uses for the whirling device and begrudgingly sighing every time a corkscrew-shaped lock forces you to fish it out. [William Hughes]

7. Rod Of Seasons, The Legend Of Zelda: Oracle Of Seasons (2001)

The Rod of Seasons is admittedly a magical device whose use is restricted by the place where it’s discovered. Due to General Of Darkness, Onox—you know that dude has a closet full of Ministry T-shirts—being a real prig, all of Holodrum’s seasons are totally messed up. In this field, it’s winter. In that forest, it’s summer. So having a mystical staff that can instantly make it spring, autumn, or any other season at the height of its signature look is necessary for putting a General Of Darkness in his place. Still, it would be nice to see the Rod stay in Link’s satchel when he goes on other adventures. The sunny wash of A Link Between Worlds’ Hyrule field is pleasant, but wouldn’t it be cool to flash freeze some octoroks or summon a flurry of red leaves to jump in? Hell, just keep waving the thing around and Link could probably erode all those monsters to dust from all the extreme weather. [Anthony John Agnello]

8. Recorder/Whistle, The Legend Of Zelda (1986)

The first in a long line of magical wind instruments lending their aid to Links throughout the ages, the Recorder stands out for its devotion to old-school obscurity. Even the game’s somewhat reliable English-language manual (which calls it the Whistle) only says it’s “the most mysterious of all the treasures in this game.” In practical terms, the item’s undocumented features work out to a rudimentary form of fast travel, allowing the user to warp between completed dungeons. But it also dries up a lake for some reason and splits exactly one enemy in the game (the fifth dungeon boss, Digdogger) into smaller, more manageable pieces. All told, the Recorder carries a devotion to mystery that the Zelda series has moved far away from in its later, more tutorial-heavy entries, leaving that sense of “What the hell does this thing do?” discovery for games like Dark Souls to pick up and carry forward. Meanwhile, the Recorder might have had only a single outing in Hyrule before getting replaced with sundry ocarinas and flutes, but it did make its way into at least one other Nintendo game: Super Mario Bros. 3, where the famous Warp Whistles carry both its appearance and its distinctive, six-note tune. [William Hughes]

9. Hover Boots, Ocarina Of Time (1998)

Of all the strange one-off items in Zelda history, the Hover Boots might be the most underserved. Found in Ocarina Of Time’s Shadow Temple, this fantastical footwear lets Link run in the air for a moment before the effect wears off and he plunges back to solid ground. If used as the game intends, there are only a handful of uninspired instances where they come in handy. As the one piece of physics-defying gimmickry in Zelda’s 3-D debut, though, the Hover Boots are invaluable for those looking to push Ocarina past its limits. Tricksters and speedrunners have figured out ways to launch Link at high speeds and climb through mid-air using the boots. More than just some cool yet underused gadget, the Hover Boots carry with them a new definition of freedom and experimentation in a series that helped to pioneer how those concepts worked in video games. [Matt Gerardi]

10. Dominion Rod, Twilight Princess (2006)

The way the Dominion Rod breaks up the drudgery of dungeon crawling is so refreshing that the rest of the game pales in comparison. By swinging it, Link takes control of statues throughout the Temple Of Time and, occasionally, around Hyrule. They follow him like adoring puppies, listening to his commands. They’re capable of attacking foes, but more importantly, the statues assist in solving puzzles. When Link needs to be in two places at once, now he can just send a statue to do half the work. Whole new kinds of puzzles need to be considered now that Link has effectively multiplied his presence throughout the room. It’s clear why the Dominion Rod’s power couldn’t have been put to use throughout the rest of the game, but for the series’ patented puzzle-solving areas, the Dominion Rod opened up whole new avenues of design. [Derrick Sanskrit]

11. The Wind Waker, The Wind Waker (2003)

The Wind Waker is a conductor’s baton that Link uses to control the direction of the wind. Considering that you spend most of your time in The Wind Waker sailing around an endless ocean, it’s tough to overstate how useful this is. However, the Wind Waker would be almost entirely useless in any other Zelda game, which pretty much makes it a great one-time Zelda item by definition. Link needs it in Wind Waker because he can direct the wind behind his sails and use the gusts to carry his boat from island to island, but in Ocarina Of Time, it would just let him summon a refreshing breeze. Of all the Zelda items you only ever get once, it’s probably the one that would be the most useless any other time, which makes it the greatest one of them all… in a way. [Sam Barsanti]

12. Stepladder, The Legend Of Zelda (1986)

Right about now you’re probably thinking, “Huh? A ladder? What’s so great about that? Does it at least magically extend or something?” Nope. Arguably even less flashy than the handful of shovels Link has used, the stepladder is the most humble tool to ever grace a Zelda inventory. It’s just a ladder, and really, it never even gets used as one. In Link’s hands, it’s more of a small portable bridge. In a game as unfriendly as the original Legend Of Zelda, though, its presence is downright luxurious. With the ladder in hand, all those waterlogged rooms full of treacherous twisting paths are suddenly manageable, and the feeling of returning to one of those nightmarish chambers and just strolling across the water is one of great triumph. And did we mention this ladder can withstand being placed directly over lava? That’s a damn fine ladder. [Matt Gerardi]

13-plus. The Masks, Majora’s Mask (2000)

Important enough to have their own dedicated page in the game’s inventory, the masks of Majora’s Mask are a grab bag of new headgear and those recycled from its older sibling, Ocarina Of Time. Of the five that return, all but one have radically different functions in the apocalypse-threatened land of Termina: The Bunny Hood transforms from money-making macguffin into a life (and time)-saving speed boost, while the once-cosmetic Zora and Goron masks are now used for transformations that play a key role in the game. The newcomers, meanwhile, have an unfortunate tendency to act as glorified keys—looking at you, All-Night Mask—but a few interesting chapeaus do find their way into the mix. The Deku Mask, which fills out the trio of transformation masks, provides the game with the taste of verticality that often makes for Zelda’s most interesting level designs, while the Giant’s Mask provides the key to one of its most dramatic boss fights. But for our money, the game’s most lamented one-hit wonder is the delightfully ridiculous Blast Mask, which allows Link to strap a bomb to his own head and detonate it at will. It mostly serves to make up for the fact that Link loses his bombs every time he resets the game’s ongoing time loop, but the image of a little green-clad kamikaze elf running around the streets of Clock Town is too good to show up in only a single game. [William Hughes]